On the First and Other Worlds I’ve Known

Martin Guevara* 

The modern elderly. Photo: Rafael Nasco Díaz

HAVANA TIMES — In the course of years – and for different reasons – I’ve ended up living in First, Second and Third World countries. The first label continues to refer to developed capitalist countries, the second was used to refer to developed or quickly developing socialist nations and the third is still used to describe underdeveloped or slowly developing societies.

Though these categories are rather vague and broad-encompassing, as evidenced by the fact that Brazil and Bangladesh (or the United States and Luxembourg) are placed in the same sack, there were a number of subtle but concrete characteristics that the nations in these groups shared.

Many of the differences, contradictions and ironic situations one came across in these countries struck me as flagrant, funny and curious. There was one bit of irony whose evident, I dare say chromatic repercussions proved impossible to hide and which struck me was particularly curious. Today, when the revolutionary enthusiasm of those days has all but dissipated (though the growling of some dinosaurs can still be heard), it continues to prove eminently dramatic.

The countries whose national selections have no foreign athletes – not even athletes from neighboring countries – are generally those that went through the dictatorial experiments headed by the former USSR, including the republics that made up that sordid union.
The only European countries whose national soccer selections have no immigrants are those which were once allegedly the champions of universal solidarity among the world’s proletariat.

England, France, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Germany and even Italy (which first resisted the opening of its borders) all count foreign immigrants as their children. The Russians only have Russians, the Poles only Poles, the Serbs do not even have Croatian players, the Hungarians only Magyars. The same holds for the Bulgarians, Latvians and Estonians, not to mention the former Soviet republics.

Photo: Peter C. Bjarkman

Not one foreign player – let alone one from the United States – can be found on Cuba’s baseball teams. Dominican teams also tend not to mingle with players from around the neighborhood. By contrast, US teams have some of Cuba’s and the Dominican Republic’s best players.

Judging from the players’ appearances, one could venture a superficial observation and conclude that a baseball player’s class background is of no importance to investors, who are rather inclined to select the genetic makeup they feel can guarantee a handful of good homeruns. This gives the working class a clear advantage, just as other classes have advantages in a game such as chess, where managers seek players who are more prone to dealing check-mates than knock-outs or homeruns.

From the overwhelming contrast between the immigrants from these two different societies, one could infer that the proletariat might be interested in things other than those were taught at our lobotomizing academies for ideological indoctrination – things that have more to do with pleasure, comfort, vanity, idleness, rest and leisure, the shames of virtue.

Real socialism, the socialist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat – these appear to have been, not only failed absurdities, a protracted experience of oppression that knew no parallel, having been born of a misguided, illusory and impossible premise, but also the greatest scam and joke that the needy have ever been subjected to, recalling the way in which Rome went from being Jesus’ executioner to his most fervent defender.

At the very least, it is altogether curious how there isn’t a single representative of the capitalist proletariat who, having emigrated to any of the former socialist nations, or those that still painstakingly remain afloat, for political reasons, or stayed in those countries a minute longer than they had to after being allowed to return to their place of origin, or how none of their descendants chose to stay in these.

It is curious that no waves of US citizens ever requested asylum in the Soviet Union, North Korea or Cuba, and I am not referring to wealthy individuals but to the many homeless and exploited people there. There are also (of course) no English, French or Spanish protesters who want to spend a single day as a Cuban, ex-Soviet, Polish or Vietnamese citizen.

Vertical garden. Photo: Odet Noa Comans

Not even Africa’s poor, subjected to the most precarious living conditions, ever set their sights on the borders of the worker and peasant homelands (such as the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania or Algiers, Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia, when these experienced socialist revolutions). Nor did Guatemalans, Costa Ricans, Salvadorians or Mexicans make any attempt to illegally enter the paradise of the humble that Nicaragua was declared to be, nor did Pakistanis or Indians ever flock to the Soviet Republics.

Such figures find a stark contrast in the overwhelming number of people who, despite the hardships colonialism caused them in their countries or ethnic groups of origin, not only do not condemn the metropoli one bit but descend upon them like flies on intestinal residues.

We can come to one of two possible conclusions.

Either these two tpyes of societies are very different from what we were taught, or human beings – the proletariat included, and particularly – aren’t that different from a perishable and slightly useful mechanical instrument made of plastic, impermeable to any moral precept.

At any rate, it would seem human beings, including the working class, having both time and freedom of choice, do not aim at destroying the bourgeoisie, distributing goods fairly and promoting moral incentives and class solidarity, but rather end up sympathizing with options that include respect for the individual, freedom of opinion and movement and also become – why not – rather unconditional supporters of having a few bucks in their pockets, substitutes for eternal love and universal peace, which seem to be taking their time to get here.
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(*) Visit the blog of Martin Guevara


7 thoughts on “On the First and Other Worlds I’ve Known

  • September 4, 2014 at 7:38 pm
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    You raise a memory for me. A few years ago when in Vinales we visited the popular cave there where you end up emerging from the cave into the blazing sun by boat. Upon leavindg the boat there is a cafe, but there sitting between the dock and the cafe was a fellow weaving rush hats (3 CUC’s). He had RED HAIR not something that I associate with Cubans. So, I had to ask him about his origins – they were Irish!
    Who knows Informed Consnet I may have found a long lost cousin of yours?
    I think Martin who writes well, lives in Spain currently. His mind must struggle with a combination of shame, pride and guilt upon behalf of his second cousin depending upon whom he is with and where. I think the BBC World Service is available in Spain.

  • September 4, 2014 at 11:57 am
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    Back to wearing the blindfold that prevents you from differentiating between academic theory and reality. Although thankfully you will not respond to replies, you should know that most of the rest of humanity live in the real world. In that real world, the UN, governments of some 200 countries, almost the complete world population including academics recognize Cuba and for socialists the much lamented deceased USSR as communist and socialist.
    Can you name one (1) country that meets or has met your own personal definition of socialism?

  • September 4, 2014 at 9:20 am
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    It is curious that prior to the 1959 and the “triumph of the revolution” their was fairly high immigration to Cuba (relatively speaking). My English and Irish grandparents both immigrated to Cuba in the early 20th century.

    I don’t suppose however that Martin has much access to the BBC

  • September 4, 2014 at 9:00 am
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    You never did respond. You merely ignored the ideas offered by others and reposted the same tedious blinkered comments.

  • September 4, 2014 at 8:12 am
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    Just so you know..
    Any socialist economy must be worker controlled to be called socialist .
    If the state runs the economy from the top , hires and fires ,confiscates and distributes the surplus profit , it is a state CAPITALIST economy and not a form of socialism at all .
    and certainly not communist .
    I will not respond to replies..

  • September 3, 2014 at 6:11 pm
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    Martin Guevara says, “.. it is altogether curious how there isn’t a single representative of the capitalist proletariat who, having emigrated to any of the former socialist nations, or those that still painstakingly remain afloat, for political reasons, or stayed in those countries a minute longer than they had to after being allowed to return to their place of origin.”
    While I’ll grant that it was very uncommon, it is not true that there was not a “single representative.” In fact, there were a few. Read Soul to Soul by Yelena Khanga. One set of her grandparents emigrated from the US to the Soviet Union in 1931.

  • September 3, 2014 at 3:28 pm
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    I am disappointed Martin by the rather disconnected ramblings encompassed in this article. The comments related to soccer are particularly strange, Russia can be expected to have a team of ethnic Russians – it has few immigrants and the number of second generation immigrants must be miniscule. Your observation that “the Serbs do not even have Croatian players” could be regarded as sick humour. Do you really imagine that the Serbs having slaughtered tens of thousands of Croats within the last thirty years would be able to find a Croat willing to play for them? Read up on the history of the Balkans and study the trials of war criminals by the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
    The observation that no foreign players can be found on Cuban baseball teams is I admit humorous – at least it made me laugh! Amazing how there hasn’t been a rush of overseas players seeking to earn $20 per month!
    If you turn your television on to the BBC World News program, you will observe newsreaders and commentators of virtually every skin colour. These people are British citizens just as are the soccer players – and this can be extended to the other European countries!
    Finally, how many of Cuba’s original ethnic peoples play baseball in Cuba, everyone in sight is a descendent of immigrants – that because the Spanish eradicated the Taino – and perhaps with them a potential Messi or Ronaldo?

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